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High School students learn vet skills

By jim Published: November 16, 2009
Brianna Monlux gets a lick from Cooper, an Australian Shepherd, after Monlux and Chris Thompson gave the dog a basic exam in their advanced animal science class at Snohomish High School in Snohomish, Wash., Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009. Students in the class were examining eyes, ears, teeth, taking the pulse and checking the temperature of a variety of animals. (AP Photo/The Herald, Michael O'Leary)

SNOHOMISH, Wash. (AP) — Learning science seems a little more relevant when there is a wagging tail and a pair of trusting eyes looking up from the examination table.

That, any way, is what several students in an advanced animal science class at Snohomish High School have concluded.

A year ago, they were poring over textbooks in an introductory animal science class to learn about digestive and respiratory systems of animals.

This year, there still are plenty of pen-and-paper lessons, but furry classroom visitors help connect academics to the real world.

The other day students in Stacy Lischke's classroom were examining eyes, ears and teeth, taking the pulse, measuring the respiration, and, yes, checking the temperature of dogs, cats, goats, rabbits and guinea pigs.

"If I learn something in class, I can take it home," said Melissa McGhee, a junior whose family has 12 chickens, two dogs, two chinchillas, a cat, a guinea pig and a goldfish.

McGhee said the exposure to animal science has her considering enrolling in the Sno-Isle Tech Skills Center's veterinary assistant program next fall and pursuing a career in veterinary science.

Janelle Rife, another junior, made the rounds with McGhee, examining a poodle, a guinea pig and a pygmy angora goat named Tinkerbell.

"I like hands-on stuff," she said. "I just learn better this way."

Lischke, a 1994 Snohomish High graduate, earned an animal science degree from Washington State University before returning to her alma mater to teach and serve as an FFA adviser.

"Not all of these kids will work in the animal industry, but many of them will have their own pets someday," Lischke said. "What they learn in this class will provide them with more experience to be a responsible pet owner, or the skills to be a very caring veterinary assistant."

Her students will learn how to do emergency sutures as a part of a pet first-aid course, which includes bandaging, wound care and animal restraint.

They also will learn how to perform injections beneath the skin and into muscles, a skill needed to give pets and livestock vaccinations and administer fluids.

They'll also perform a fecal analysis to determine which types of internal parasites are present and a urinalysis and to examine blood under the microscope. There will be a math unit on how to calculate and convert units and determine dosages of medications.

Chris Thompson, a senior, said his animal science classes have left him considering a career as a veterinary assistant.

"I'm not a big doctor type of person," he said. "But I love to help with animals."

One of the skills the students were supposed to practice last week was restraining animals during the examinations. It was easier with some critters than others.

For instance, Cooper, a 4-month-old Australian shepherd, was remarkably compliant for a puppy but still managed to plant his front paws on students' chests and lick their faces.

"He really likes coming to school," said Aubrey Shirley, a junior and Cooper's owner.

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